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Greece Demands Answers in Death of Greek Immigrant in Germany

police germany greek immigrant giorgos zantiotis
Greek immigrant in Germany Giorgos Zantiotis died while in police custody in Wuppertal, Germany. Credit: Henning Schlottmann/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

Greece is demanding answers regarding the death of Greek immigrant Giorgos Zantiotis while in police custody in Wuppertal, Germany this week.

The Greek Foreign Ministry has formally requested that German authorities provide them with a full report of what happened to the Greek citizen before his death.

Zantiotis died after being taken into police custody on November 2. Since the 25-year-old’s passing, not many details surrounding his death have been released. Many theories regarding his cause of death have circulated, particularly that he had been beaten in the police station.

The case has been the center of controversy, as his death was reported in the German media five days after it happened. By that time, a video of Zantiotis’ arrest had already begun to circulate on social media.

Video of Greek immigrant Giorgos Zantiotis’ arrest in Germany went viral

The video shows Zantiotis, lying prone on the street, being taken into custody by German police officers while his sister told them to stop because he had recently had surgery.

The local prosecutor stated that police were called to the scene after a taxi driver called authorities stating that he had seen two siblings arguing and that one was hurt.

German police claim that Zantiotis tried to tackle a policewoman to the ground and that he resisted his arrest, injuring two officers in the process. According to the statement provided by local police, forces on the scene had to wait for backup to arrive in order to bring the Greek immigrant into custody.

Upon taking him to the station, police claimed that they suspected Zantiotis was under the influence of drugs, so they took a blood sample from him. They claim that he then suddenly passed out, and attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.

His family have stated that the young Greek immigrant faced some health problems, and had placed an intragastric balloon in his stomach to aid in weight loss. Some contend that if Zantiotis had been hit or physically attacked, it could have caused his death due to his health issues.

German authorities claim Greek immigrant’s death caused by heart attack brought about by drugs

Herbert Reul, State Minister for Internal Affairs, stated on Friday that, “according to the coroner’s ruling, violence was not his cause of death.” He stressed that the Greek immigrant’s  body did not have signs of any physical attack, and noted that the stitches from Zantiotis’ recent stomach surgery were completely intact and undisturbed.

According to German officials, the results of Zantiotis’ autopsy show that the man had cardiomegaly, or an enlarged heart, which can be a genetic condition, or sometimes the result of drug use.

It also showed that he died from a heart attack, which authorities claim may have been the result of taking drugs.

Wolf-Tilman Baumert, Press Spokesman for the Wuppertal Prosecutor, stated that Zantiotis’ sister informed police that “her brother took LSD that night…his aggressive behavior, not only towards his sister but also toward law enforcement, leads to the conclusion that he was acting under the influence of drugs and likely an overdose of these substances lead to his heart attack.”

Baumert also noted that Zantiotis had been visiting a cardiologist in recent months for his heart.

Baumert then addressed the controversy surrounding the fact that the Greek immigrant’s death was not announced to the press until days after it happened.

He stated that he himself had decided to wait, stating that he did so out of respect for the family:

“We had a 25-year-old man who was not known to the police, but made a huge mistake while under the influence of drugs. He transformed into a different person who did things that he would have never done otherwise.”

“He first attacked his sister, then police. He acted very horribly and in the end he lost his life. It is a tragic sequence of events. He is not at fault, but the person who sold him drugs, whom we are looking for, is. I did it out of respect for the family. But when the incident circulated across social media, with the most unbelievable theories surrounding his death, I decided to make it public, because I would not be able to protect the young man’s family from the public discussion of what happened anymore,” he stated.

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